7 long days ago I left San Antonio and we continued the journey south. Even after what I have seen already could not have been prepaired for what was to come in this section.
Taking 2 days to rest and re-organise in San Antionio I was fortunate enough to have the use of a farm. Here I rested alone enjoying the peace and quiet with Red feeding in the field. A chance to wash the clothes, cook on a stove and not move a great deal! Looking over the maps I planned out the next few days with a little advice from Hernando, the owner of the farm. Only problem with my planned route was it happened to pass the home of a certain revolutionary group leader. Is ok I am told, just dont talk too much and pass quietly. I have no choice, 28 days to pass a border 500kms away there is no backtracking. After giving my thanks and loading up we were back moving.
I had opted to head over the mountains in a bid to make quick progress and avoid the road. The track was smooth for the first hour or so before again turning into just a footpath, dropping and rising 50 metres into ravines, the going got tough fast. I was passed by with the sun going down I asked where the nearest farm was – “ask the house at the top of the hill” as he rushed past. Soon I came to a river, wide, deep and no sign of where the path continued the other side. Knowing I had just been passed I looked for the footprints to lead me to the right path. So lucky I had been passed as would never have found the right track otherwise.
I eventually arrived at the house on top of the hill and there was the guy that had passed me by, the people were expecting me which made me a little nervous. Inviting me in and letting me put Red in the field. Within 5 minutes I had a plate of food infront of me and was bombarded with questions, an incredibly nice family. The next day after a good nights rest Red and I were fed well, and helping to make ‘jugo de cana’ – sugar cane juice – I filled my canteen and carried on with the assistace of Elmer guiding me. There had been a lot of rainfall in recent days and so I had to change my route as the river was too strong to cross, adding a few miles but a safe track to follow.
We continued South, Red getting stronger and stronger by the day, really cannot explain how strong the bond becomes, the trust in each others senses, you really are 4 ears and 4 eyes when travelling horseback. We pass small villages, staring faces watch as we roll through. Getting hungry and food running low I spotted a dairy farm, asking if could camp for the night and maybe help out in return for a safe spot for the night. The farm manager , Jose Victor was extremely welcoming and let me hang the hammock, rest and fill my cup with fresh milk whilst I helped out on the farm.
The next day the air changed, the tension palpable. Even the normally reasuring silence felt odd. I had been told of a strange ambient, of bad things that had passed, this is usually nothing more than peoples imagination and tall stories but this occasion was right. Riding through the stunning mountains was something stopping me from enjoying the stunning countryside as much as usuall. Not wanting to be stuck for somewhere to spend the night I started looking early. After several closed doors I came to the home of Miriam, a lady that would not tell me her name until I gave mine, not let me passs until had been checked out by several family members. Eventually I was permited entry to their field. Stunning spot filled with fruit trees and horses. I pitched up and relaxed a little. With the sun going down I had my first visitor of the night, the usuall questions before he got to the point “are you military?” No I answer, just wanting to pass and enjoy this beautiful country. “But you have the same equipment as the military” pointing at my hammock. I explain my trip and without reaction my interrigator walks away. An hour or so later comes another, “are you on an excercise?” No sir, just wanting to pass quietly. And again, no reaction, dissapears back into the trees. At this point you cannot change location, is dark, late and you just have to hope that your answers were good enough. You dont really sleep and when you do is with your clothes on, kit tied to your leg. The sun eventually came, I packed up and moved. Although am confident there was never any danger is still an uneasy feeling that does not permit you to rest. I passed La Linea and within a few hours spirits lifted. Smiles were back and the sun was beaming.
Over the next few days and nights we had many more encounters, some good, some bad and the extreme generosity of the Colombian people shining through. Feeding me when I needed it the most and helping with directions – one thing anybody that has travelled Central or South America will know is that if asked for directions nobody says “sorry, I dont know” Distances change from 1hr to noooo, not possible today. My advice – take the middle number and carry on. By day 6 I was pretty exhausted and listening to directions though I was only 5hrs from a town where I could find a stable and rest in preperation for my next leg.Carying on on foot in order to let Red rest 5 hours turned to 6,7,8 and it was getting dark. The road tough going and flanked either side. to the right a 60 metre cliff face and to the left a 40 metre drop to the river below. No choice but to carry on. Over the last few days I have experienced the hardest, the most beautiful and most testing riding of my life. This section we were tired but no option but to carry on through. Pitch black and full cloud cover preventing any moonlight I had to aim for light, knowing dipping into a field was not possible we pushed on. As always although you dont like to count on it the amazing hospitality of the Colombian people shone through and was I was welcomed in by Ricardo and his wife, offereing me the chance to use their field until daybreak. Could not have come at a better time!
I have to say thank you for all the support, messages and donations through the “buy a bale” not only does this keep us moving and motivated but gives a massive boost. Cannot thank you enough! I hope to rest for the next few days, let my horse recover before we head on, 21 days to make the border ……………